Dayton Jazz Legend Jerry Gillotti Has Died

Nov 27, 2017

The owner of one of Dayton's most popular jazz spots, Gilly's, has died. Jerry Gillotti died Nov. 23 at age 80.

Gillotti opened Gilly's in 1972 and it became an institution in Dayton drawing notable musicians from around the country. During its 45 years, Gilly's welcomed artists including B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis, Stan Getz, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and more.

Jerry Gillotti with Wynton Marsalis in 2015.
Credit Gilly's Jazz / Facebook

Gillotti's passion for jazz started when he was a soldier stationed in Germany from 1956 to 1958. After the army, he returned to the University of Dayton, graduating in 1962. He spoke about that time with WVXU contributor Ron Esposito on Around Cincinnati in 2015:

"I would study till about 11, 11:30 p.m. and then I'd go out and hang out for an hour or two and listen to some of the local jazz. I was real interested in it and I just thought, boy, if you ever did this right with good sound and good lights and no obstructions to the stage - let the people play - there's no reason that they wouldn't keep coming back and coming back because the improvisation of jazz was exciting to me and I thought it would be exciting to everyone else."

Gillotti brought his love of jazz to the airwaves, hosting radio programs on WMUB as well as WDAO, WVUD, and WING. WMUB's Mama Jazz often talked about Gilly's and the musicians playing there.

WVXU host Lee Hay remembers Gillotti from her WMUB days.

She writes:

When I first got into the local jazz scene while working jazz shifts at WMUB in the late 70's, WMUB's jazz director, Jim Bennett, turned me on to Gilly's up in Dayton. A number of us would carpool up there to see jazz legends who stopped by the club on their way across the country perhaps from Columbus or Cleveland to Indianapolis. The nice thing about Gilly's was that the tables were close to the stage, and you felt as a jazz fan connected to the musicians on stage.

Hay calls Gilly's "the perfect venue for rising stars to work their magic."

Jerry Gillotti loved jazz and devoted his life to this passion which was shared by those who knew him and visited his Gilly's club. He’ll be missed along with this legendary jazz club when it closes.

Gillotti's family says Gilly's will remain open through Dec 31, 2017.